Addison's Disease

What is Addison's Disease?

Let's look at the definition of Addison's disease. This is a condition in which the adrenal glands fail to produce enough hormones.

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The adrenal glands, in particular, produce insufficient amounts of the hormone cortisol and, in some cases, aldosterone. When the body is under stress (for example, fighting an infection), a cortisol deficiency can cause a life-threatening Addisonian crisis characterised by low blood pressure.


Symptoms are generally non-specific and include fatigue, nausea, skin darkening, and dizziness when standing.


Taking hormones to replace those not produced by the adrenal glands is part of the treatment. Addison disease, also known as hypocortisolism or adrenal insufficiency, is a rare disorder characterised by the destruction of the outer layer of the adrenal glands, which produce hormones and are located just above the kidneys. Addison disease is uncommon because it occurs only when at least 90% of the adrenal cortex is destroyed.

Symptoms of Addison’s Disease

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The adrenal cortex produces a variety of hormones known as corticosteroids, which play important roles in the body's functions such as metabolism, blood pressure, and sodium and potassium levels. Cortisol and aldosterone production is disrupted when the cortex is damaged, resulting in a variety of symptoms such as weakness, darkening of the skin and mucous membranes, poor appetite, weight loss, low blood pressure, gastrointestinal upset, and a craving for salt or salty foods.


Addison disease symptoms worsen over time and eventually (after several months) lead to acute adrenal insufficiency, also known as adrenal crisis. Fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, and a sharp drop in blood pressure are all symptoms of an adrenal crisis. Unless the patient is aggressively treated with an intravenous saline solution and cortisol or other glucocorticoids, he may go into shock and die.


Adrenal crisis can occur in people who have no history of adrenal disease and can be triggered by physical stress, such as trauma or illness. The most common cause of the adrenal crisis is bilateral adrenal haemorrhage, which can occur in newborn infants and adults, particularly those taking anticoagulant medications (e.g., heparin or warfarin).

Addison's Disease Causes

Addison's disease is caused by adrenal gland damage, which results in insufficient cortisol and, in some cases, insufficient aldosterone. The adrenal glands are a component of your endocrine system. They produce hormones, which instruct nearly every organ and tissue in your body.


Tuberculosis (TB) is the most common cause of Addison's disease globally, but it is uncommon in the United Kingdom. Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs but can also spread to other parts of the body.

Who is at Risk for Addison’s Disease?

  • If you have cancer or use anticoagulants, you may be at a higher risk for Addison's disease (blood thinners)

  • have long-term infections such as tuberculosis

  • had any part of your adrenal gland surgically removed

  • suffer from an autoimmune disease, such as type 1 diabetes or Graves' disease.

Diagnosing Addison’s Disease

Your doctor will inquire about your medical history as well as the symptoms you've been experiencing. They will perform a physical examination and may order lab tests to determine your potassium and sodium levels.


Your doctor may also order imaging tests and hormone levels measurements.

Addison’s Disease Treatment

Your treatment will be determined by the cause of your condition. Adrenaline-regulatory medications may be prescribed by your doctor.


It is critical that you adhere to the treatment plan that your doctor has devised for you. Addison syndrome, if left untreated, can result in an Addisonian crisis.


If your condition has gone untreated for too long and has progressed to a potentially fatal condition known as Addisonian crisis, your doctor may first prescribe medication to treat that.


Low blood pressure, high potassium levels in the blood, and low blood sugar levels are all symptoms of the Addisonian crisis.

Medications

To improve your health, you may need to take a combination of glucocorticoids (anti-inflammatory drugs). These medications will be taken for the rest of your life, and you will not be able to skip a dose.


Hormone replacement therapy may be recommended to replace hormones that your adrenal glands do not produce.

Home Care

Always keep an emergency kit containing your medications on hand. In an emergency, ask your doctor to write a prescription for an injectable corticosteroid.


You should also carry a medical alert card in your wallet and a bracelet on your wrist to alert others to your condition.

Alternative Therapies

If you have Addison's disease, it is critical that you maintain a low-stress level. Major life events, such as the death of a loved one or an injury, can increase your stress level and influence how you respond to medications. Consult your doctor about stress-relieving activities such as yoga and meditation.

What is Expected in the Long Term?

Addison's disease necessitates lifelong care. Treatments, such as hormone replacement therapy, can assist you in managing your symptoms.


Following your doctor's treatment plan is an important step toward living a productive life.


Always take your medications exactly as prescribed. Taking too little or too much medication can harm your health. Depending on your condition, your treatment plan may need to be reevaluated and modified. As a result, it is critical that you see your doctor on a regular basis.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question 1. Can Stress Cause Addison's Disease?

Answer. This is known as the Addisonian crisis or acute adrenal insufficiency. This disease can happen when your body is under stress. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including illness, fever, surgery, or dehydration. You may also experience a crisis if you abruptly discontinue or reduce the number of steroids you are taking.

Question 2. Define Addison’s Disease.

Answer. Let's look at Addison's disease definition. Addison's disease, also known as adrenal insufficiency, is a rare disorder in which your body does not produce enough of certain hormones. In Addison's disease, your adrenal glands, which are located just above your kidneys, produce insufficient cortisol and, in some cases, insufficient aldosterone.

Question 3. How is Addison's Disease Diagnosed?

Answer. You may be subjected to some of the following tests: A blood test will be performed. Sodium, potassium, cortisol, and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal cortex to produce hormones, can all be measured in your blood. Antibodies associated with autoimmune Addison's disease can also be measured using a blood test.